Penguin at ease as Norway makes him a sergeant

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The Independent Online

In a land where nights are long, drink is impossibly expensive and beating yourself with birch twigs is recreation, it probably makes perfect sense.

The Norwegian Army conferred one of its highest military honours on a penguin at Edinburgh Zoo yesterday. Nils Olav, a King Penguin who is also a Regimental Sergeant Major, was promoted to Honourable Regimental Sergeant Major of Norway with all the pomp expected of such an occasion.

The Royal Norwegian Guard, in Edinburgh for the Military Tattoo, performed at the 10-minute ceremony to bestow the honour on Nils Olav.

Nils Egelien, a retired major, told the penguin: "I am here to promote you from Regimental Sergeant Major into the first Honourable Regimental Sergeant Major in the country."

Nils Olav proudly showed off a silver badge on his right flipper to the 200-strong crowd but ignored a request to inspect the 18 guardsmen who patiently stood to attention.

Nils Olav was originally sponsored by the Norwegian Army after a lieutenant in the King's Guard, Nils Egelien, was enraptured by the zoo's penguins on a visit in 1961.